Thursday, December 5, 2013
By Paul Koenig email@example.com
The Chelsea Board of Selectmen voted Wednesday night to provide 30 days worth of busing for students going to Cony High School.
The town lost bus service to the Augusta high school after the Augusta Board of Education didn’t renew a contract with the town that expired June 30.
Regional School Unit 12 alerted parents of the roughly 50 students attending Cony from Chelsea and the 20 students from Windsor and Whitefield in a letter dated Aug. 8 that bus service wouldn’t be available to Cony this year.
Augusta school district administrators decided last year to not send buses to Windsor and Whitefield, but RSU 12 picked up the tab because parents didn’t find out until after buses didn’t arrive on the first day of school.
Rick Danforth, vice chairman of the Chelsea select board, said the town will use $1,000 out of its contingency fund to pay for the busing for 30 days.
“We pretty much put a Band-Aid on this to help our citizens,” Danforth said on Thursday.
The town already budgeted $25,000 a year to transport students to and from their home and a central location in the morning and afternoon.
Buses from Gardiner High School, Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale and Erskine Academy in South China bring students to and from the respective.
Erskine Academy charges students $10 a week for bus service, but the other two schools don’t charge the students or the district.
RSU 12 provides busing for all students in the district to Wiscasset High School, the district’s secondary school, but it’s significantly farther than the other schools for those who live in Chelsea.
Lisa Goulette, a parent who found out in August her son wouldn’t have a ride to Cony, said she’s happy the town is funding busing for now.
“It gives us time to work something out,” she said. “We didn’t have a say before.”
Goulette said that in the long term the town and district should find a way to provide busing for the students.
Students in Somerville-based RSU 12 who are from towns that didn’t have a high school when the district was formed in 2007 and were school-choice towns, can still attend the school of their choice.
High schools aren't required to bus students from those towns, however, unless it’s included in a contract with the district or town.
James Anastasio, Augusta's superintendent, said the district decided last year that it wouldn't pay busing costs for students outside the district because the cost isn't factored into the price the state allows the school to charge for tuition.
RSU 12 board Chairwoman Hilary Holm, a Whitefield resident, has said the district won’t pay to bus students to other schools because there are so many other schools the students can go to.
About two-thirds of students in RSU 12 attend high schools other than Wiscasset.
Another complication is that Wiscasset High School is on the verge of withdrawing from the school district. The Department of Education has signed off on the proposal, and residents will vote Nov. 5 on whether to officially withdraw in July 2014.
RSU 12 Superintendent Howard Tuttle said the withdrawal agreement ensures schools from the towns in the district will still be able to attend Wiscasset, and the district would continue to provide transportation.
The school board is actively looking for other high schools with which to contract, according to Holm.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663